Archive for August, 2010

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learn how to Dress for Success globally

Friday 27 August, 2010

Since my days working @ the Canadian consulate, I still check in @ http://www.canada.com  There was an interesting article there:  Europeans dress most casually for work, Indians dress smartest where there are a few tidbits that might be helpful @ some point.  Here are all of the results of the survey & here is the summary report.  These kinds of things aren’t of vital importance, but could be important to know if you are interviewing or meeting clients in that country or with a firm from the countries surveyed.  If nothing else, this serves as another example of things being done differently elsewhere, but not necessarily better or worse.

Here are a few of my observations on the data:

  • The supposedly more fashion-conscious Europeans were way ahead in wearing business casual to work when I worked there in the 1980’s.
  • I quibble with the results of this survey a bit, being 1 who is relatively unconcerned with appearances, (why else would I sport a graying beard?),  I question how much what you wear has to do with how well you do your job, but some of the data corroborates that.  I guess that’s why I lean more towards the Swedish tendency after spending 6 months there years ago.
  • I haven’t run the numbers, but it does look like there is a correlation between level of economic development & less acceptance of informal dress @ work, & playing golf to enhance business connections.  Latin America seems to be somewhat of an exception here though.
  • I find it interesting that twice as many (34%) North Americans say it’s OK to wear shorts to work as flip-flops (17%), a much starker difference than for other continents.
  • The data on wearing a Speedo/bikini @ the beach or company picnic must be screwed up for North America unless the survey has proportionately more Mexicans than Americans and Canadians.
  • For some reason, & I have no idea why, the detailed data includes questions on worker abuse/harassment & abortion, which seems to have no place in this survey.

Pardon me for the fluffiness of this post, but it’s August & a lot of the rest of the world is on holiday, so there isn’t much else to write about.

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world trade (center?) illinois is back & another new chamber in town

Friday 20 August, 2010

Last night I attended this Global Business Card Exchange hosted by a rejuvenated World Trade (Center?) Illinois & new Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce of Illinois at the Brazilian steakhouse Brazzaz.  Other sponsors included The law firm of Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A.Argentine-American Midwest Chamber of Commerce, The Latin American Chamber of Commerce, Korean Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, and The Peruvian Professionals of Chicago.  The event attracted a crowd of 50-60+ from all over the world, so their inaugural event kicked off with a good start.  There were a few other speakers, but without a microphone, we weren’t able to hear them well.

I’m glad they’re back, but on its website, there’s no indication that the World Trade (Center?) Illinois is a member of the World Trade Centers Association.  This means members of the WTC Illinois might not be able to take advantage of the benefits of being able to utilize the services of other WTC’s throughout the world when traveling to different corners of the globe.  In the past I’ve mentioned my concern with the value associated with the membership dues that its predecessor organization charged.  I discussed this briefly with the new leadership, but it appears as if they cling to the same value relationship.  It’s good that there’s another organization like the WTC back in the Chicagoland area & they appear to offer some valuable services, but it’s important to know what you get for your investment in the organization.  If any WTCI members read this & disagree, feel free to click on the comment button to voice your opinion.

It’s also encouraging that there is now a chamber of commerce focused on Brazil.  Given the country’s growth & potential, there should be enough business & sponsors to support it.  It was also good to see other organizations supporting this event as well.  I think South American business is underrepresented here in Chicago, so seeing Argentina & Peru contributing helps too.  I didn’t see any representatives from Korea at the event, but it’s possible that they arrived after I left to check out some jazz in Millennium Park.  They have a few glitches to work out for their next event, but should be able to learn from the problems they encountered last night to improve them the next time.

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are there advantages to minority-owned firms going global?

Thursday 12 August, 2010

Naturally, as a dedicated globalist, my answer is “yes,” as I encourage any/all firms to consider going global. I attended this forum GLOBALIZATION: Access to the Global Economy sponsored by the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) which promoted its views, (which seem to concur, not surprisingly) at this forum.  They sponsored another event in March earlier this year which contained similar information (china, mexico, philippines, us doc @ mbda seminar), so I won’t duplicate that, rather just summarize what’s new.

A panel discussion featured 4 speakers who have experience/have helped minority-owned firms expand internationally.

Derek Wong of Ensis, a food exporter/importer & distributor, suggested that an open global mindset without blinders & a positive attitude are required to tackle international markets.  They’re not 1 size fits all, so adaptability is needed too.  Partners raise & solve control & resources issues.  Marketing & sales have to be adjusted to local business conditions.  You need to pay attention to politics,  trade agreements, & disputes-he gave an example of being able to decrease his costs 20% by leveraging a dispute between Colombia & Venezuela.

Kitty Pon of Pactrans has strong relations with the Chinese government, so she hosted the MBDA firms that visited China last year.  She is now working on bringing Chinese investors to the U.S., & creating joint ventures by bringing buyers & suppliers together.

Vicky Linko of Funk & Linko encouraged attendees to think out-of-the-box when evaluating the +’s & -‘s of going global.  While U.S. firms are mistrustful of doing business with foreigners, we need to work together more closely.  Foreign partners know how things work, whom to contact, & where to go to resolve local issues.  You can’t worry about others stealing ideas because we all need to be innovative.  Vicky is impatient, but recognizes the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily think the same way.

Jeff Fang of Cienet reemphasized that being a minority-owned firm is not underprivileged, rather to the contrary, a competitive advantage.  He’s from Taiwan, so he’d never been to China, but has built a successful firm there despite many unknowns.  He found & hired a Chinese person who grew up & was educated in the U.S. but had spent 6 years working in China who had integrated himself so well that he was trusted implicitly by the locals.  Part of the firm’s success has been by being persistent in maintaining their own western-oriented corporate culture & practices, i.e. transparency, no short cuts, etc.

Q&A:

  • whether or not to pursue developed markets depends specifically on the product.  Funk & Linko has shipped to many places, so it depends on the market, need, & opportunity.  There are fewer benefits to being a minority-owned business when pursuing markets in developed countries-you’re just another American firm to them.
  • the US Dept of Commerce does not do due diligence on foreign manufacturers unless they somehow can contribute to supporting US exports.
  • leverage Chicago’s global resources by taking advantage of all its cultural diversity:  chambers of commerce, foreign consulates trade offices, the ITAGC, events, etc.
  • there are many chances to take advantage of reciprocal opportunities by engaging foreign governments re:  regulations, i.e., Colombia was helpful with certifications & timelines.

my $.02-minority firms do have some advantages expanding internationally by leveraging domestic resources, but they still require research, analysis, planning, & development as much as any/all other firms.  It’s great that the government supports these kinds of initiatives, but shouldn’t be relied upon to be the sole source for assistance in these areas.

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US Fortune 100 CEO’s working overseas

Friday 6 August, 2010

I caught this very interesting & encouraging article in the Sunday Chicago Tribune & US News & World Report What the resumes of top CEOs have in common What the Résumés of Top CEOs Have in Common by Liz Wolgemuth (love her name, by the way & I do wonder why it took the Tribune 2+ months to pick up the article from US News & World Report).  As you might know, I rail incessantly about American’s lack of deep & meaningful experience living & working abroad.  In a sense, this article validates the value of those out-of-country experiences.

I’m impressed that nearly 3/4 of Fortune 100 CEO’s have at least 2 years working overseas & that other C-level execs have  embraced this kind of experience (48%->71% in last 10 years) as well. They’ve really dug in & addressed some issues.  Many parachute in, do a deal, & think they know the lay of the land.  That leads to many misperceptions, but that’s not what’s happening here.  These guys have been going to the office every day dealing with local issues on an ongoing basis, all of which can be radically different from how we do it in the U.S.  I was talking with a T’bird friend who just returned from 3 years in Thailand.  His comment was, “Until you have that kind of experience, you just don’t know how different the business world is elsewhere.”

This begs many more questions.  I tried to go to the source, Healthy Companies Research Institute but there was nothing helpful there.  I want to know:  Where did they work?  English-speaking countries or did they have to learn foreign languages?  Developed or developing countries?  Does the same hold for companies smaller than Fortune 100 companies?  What did they learn from these experiences?  Would they recommend this experience earlier or later in your career?  Did they go abroad as ex-patriots or hired as a local?  Each of these different dimensions lead to different experiences, so I’d be interested to learn their takes in each direction.

I can understand where 20 years ago, a foreign assignment took you off the management track.  Communications were not nearly as cheap & easy as they are today-I had to wait until Tuesday mornings to pick up an English-speaking newspaper to get my Sunday NFL football scores when I lived in Germany 25 years ago.  I’m not so sure I believe the American HQ’s thought they had all the answers or that foreign subsidiaries became versatile & creative.  I also am skeptical of U.S. business schools ramping up partnerships with foreign business schools & then calling themselves international.  I think American firms continue to try to export their supposedly superior (& imperialistic) business methods & when others push back, there is a learning exchange that happens & both sides adjust to 1 another.  Businesses have to adjust to different business cultures while MBA schools need to adapt their curricula in every country in which they operate.

It creates hope for globalists who’ve gathered experience from the far corners of the world that companies are now supposedly seeking people with overseas experience.  I was talking with another T’bird friend awhile ago & she said, “We’re freaks.  American businesspeople don’t know what to do with our international experience.   They’re intimidated by our foreign experience & afraid that we know more about other places than they do & that threatens them.”  Frankly I haven’t seen these opportunities much yet, but if the author says it’s true, I hope it is.  As usual, they oversimplify cultural differences, but that’s what everyone seems to do.  Now if we can just get corporate boards of directors to reflect the global diversity of their demand & supply chains, we might create truly globally-aware corporations.